(Photo: Just how independent do you really feel every time you reach into your wallet these days to pay for owning an automobile?)
The front-page story in today’s Sun-Times chronicles a northwest side paralegal, Melissa Monroy, who has decided to dump her car to get to work. The way she is quoted in the article, you would think not having a car in Chicago–the city with the second largest train, bus, and commuter rail system in America (uneven CTA service notwithstanding)–is a death sentence.
I’ve lived in this town for more than five years on the north side, the northwest side, and downtown, and I don’t drive. As we all know, being a former New Yorker, I never learned to drive.
The only time that ever becomes a problem for me is when I want to make a trip to the far suburbs (Ikea, anyone?). Monroy, however, says she can’t go to a grocery store, come home from a weekend’s carousing, or “drive home for lunch” without a car. The last one is particularly silly: without that car to come home, she says she is “forced” to eat lunch in restaurants.
I think the problem is really that she’s trapped by her limited thinking about her relationship to–and need for–her automobile. It’s hard to step out of that gas-powered comfort zone.
But millions of us in this country get around just fine without owning a car. Many of us do it by choice, not because we’re too poor to own one. And we do it without a lot of hand-wringing over our alleged plight, or hand-holding to console us that we aren’t paying $5 a gallon for gas.
Monroy can learn to carry a grocery bag, or buy a shopping cart. If she can leave her house to get downtown on the CTA, I’m pretty sure she can get back home via the CTA, too (that one just sounds like fear of nighttime transit travel to me). And she can certainly make her own lunch–it would save her money and the only excuse for not doing so is laziness.
Monroy’s closing quote: “I like to be independent. Not having a car, you don’t feel very independent.”
Still, maybe without that automobile, Melissa, you’re now a lot more independent than you feel. After all, who is more truly independent: the person who pays $75 a month for a CTA pass; or the one who pays $600 a month for gas and a car note?
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.